Is your tap water OK to drink? Here's how to find out

Reports of lead in drinking water in several communities across the country may have you wondering what's in your tap water.

Most municipal water in the U.S. appears to be safe to drink and free from harmful contaminants, according to EPA data. But how do you know for sure?

"Finding out if your water is safe enough to drink can take some time, effort and money. But it's definitely worth doing," said Perry Santanachote, with Consumer Reports. 

Consumer Reports says if you're connected to a community water system and pay your own bill, you should receive an annual water quality report called a Consumer Confidence Report, or CCR. If you don't have one, call your local water supplier. And if you rent, contact your landlord. 

If you're on a noncommunity public water system or use a private well, you won't get a CCR, so Consumer Reports recommends having your water tested once a year and anytime you notice a change in taste, color or odor. You should also get your water tested if your home was built before 1986 when lead-free pipes were mandated. 

To test your water, the EPA recommends using a certified lab. You can find a lab on the EPA's website. If the test finds contaminants in your water, it's probably time to choose the right filter to clean it up. 

"For multiple or high levels of contaminants, a reverse osmosis system is recommended," said Santanachote "If your main concern is improving taste and odor, the filters that are used in pitchers are actually really affordable and work great. Some can even handle more serious contaminants like lead."

In Consumer Reports testing, only one pitcher-style filter--Pur Ultimate with lead reduction--earned an excellent rating for flavor and odor reduction.

Consumer Reports also says, regardless of which filter you choose, you want to make sure it meets industry standards and is certified by an independent lab.